Gazan militants fired the first rockets at Tel Aviv since Iraq targeted the Israeli city during the 1991 Gulf War. One rocket hit an uninhabited part of a suburb south of the city, and another hit the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Tel Aviv, the farthest distances ever reached by Gazan fire. In a speech on Thursday night, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said this is a "very significant development" in the conflict with Israel, and noted that the Iranian-made rockets have a range of 44 miles. He called for Arab leaders to shift their focus from Syria to protecting the people of Gaza. Egypt has sent its Foreign Minister Hisham Kandil to Gaza in a dramatic diplomatic move seemingly displaying Egypt's support for Hamas, which Israel, the United States, and other Western countries deem a terrorist organization. Kandil's arrival prompted Israel to agree to a temporary truce, which barely took hold. Israel has deployed armored vehicles toward the border with Gaza and has called up 16,000 reserve troops to prepare for a possible ground invasion. Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes have continued on Gaza and Palestinian militants fired at least 25 rockets into southern Israel. An estimated 21 Palestinians and three Israelis have died in the past three days of escalated violent conflict.
Turkey has recognized the new Syrian opposition group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, as the "sole representative of the Syrian people." It joins France and the six Gulf states. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu cited the rising death toll in the 20-month conflict, which he said surpassed 39,000 and asserted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days are numbered. British Foreign Minister William Hague has signaled he is preparing to formally recognize the group, but wants to have more details, "about who they are going to appoint, particular positions, about whether the Kurds will be included, how much support they have inside Syria." After meetings began Friday in London with representatives from the opposition, Hague said the talks were "encouraging." He is expected to make a decision in the next few days.
Arguments and Analysis
Notes from an Egyptian Mujahid in Syria (Mara Revkin, Atlantic Council, EgyptSource)
"If there is such a thing as a stereotypical jihadist, Ahmed is not it. The 22-year-old Egyptian Salafi tweets prolifically from his iPad, quotes Martin Luther King, Jr., and works part-time for a successful alternative media start-up company.
Like a lot of college students, Ahmed loves road trips. But unlike most Egyptians his age, Ahmed's last journey was to a war zone - Syria - where he spent six weeks fighting with rebel forces against Bashar al-Assad's entrenched regime. Ahmed is one of a growing number of mujahideen (predominately Sunni guerrilla fighters) traveling from Egypt, Tunisia, and as far as Croatia and Pakistan to volunteer with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
The United Nations estimates that the number of foreign combatants on the ground may lie in the hundreds, but anecdotal reports indicate that the true figure may be in the thousands and growing. On September 17, the United Nations expressed concern that the influx of foreign fighters could be contributing to the radicalization of rebel forces. The head of the UN inquiry into Syria's civil war, Paulo Pinheiro, warned, "Such elements tend to push anti-government fighters towards more radical positions." Among the mujahideen are veteran jihadists who fought alongside Muslim separatists in Bosnia and Chechnya. Others have ties to al-Qaeda affiliates and fought against Coalition Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Assessing Bahrain's Implementation of the BICI Report (Project on Middle East Democracy)
"On November 23, 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) issued a 500-page report summarizing its findings regarding the February-March 2011 popular uprising and the government's heavy-handed response. The BICI report
described in detail the frequent use of excessive force by security forces, the systemic abuse and torture of detainees, mass discrimination and dismissals of workers and students, and grave violations of medical neutrality. The report highlighted a culture of impunity prevalent among government officials at all levels, concluding that many abuses "could not have happened without the knowledge of higher echelons of the command structure...We have found that the Government of Bahrain has fully implemented three of the BICI report's 26 recommendations. Two other recommendations were impossible for us to properly evaluate due to a lack of available information, and 15 recommendations have only been partially implemented. Finally, the government has made no meaningful progress toward six of the recommendations, which are precisely the most important steps that need to be taken - accountability for officials responsible for torture and severe human rights violations, the release of political prisoners, prevention of sectarian incitement, and the relaxation of censorship and controls on free expression."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images
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